The Keys to Killer Copy

In the marketing department, it can be one of the most difficult skills to master.

Simply Not Easy

If you think alliteration is the answer, you're not wrong, but it's not that simple. Copywriting is one of the most difficult skills in the marketing department. In part because it seems so easy. Everybody writes, and marketing copy is usually only a few words. Trying your hand at it doesn't cost you $700 a year for the software, nor does it require significant RAM and a full stack of programming languages. But copy is where campaigns break down.

When it comes to branding and marketing, sometimes, being plain and simple is more complicated than being detailed and complex. That's why copy is hard. It requires restraint, it requires clarity, but then to complicate the matter, it still requires impact. Those few words need to have more impact than the 846 words on this page. It might be simple, but it's not easy.

In today's newsletter, I want to share some of the most vital principles of writing killer copy.

Be the solution you want to see in the world

The people you are trying to reach don't need to learn about you. They want something they can sink their feet into. They want to get their teeth wet. Or vice versa. That means don't talk about the trip; talk about the vacation because nobody wants to sit on a plane. They want to feel the sand in their toes and taste the lemon juice splashed across their lobster. Your audience doesn't want to call a plumber. They want to stop the dripping. More than that, they want to enjoy their home without worrying and visit with others who are not worried. Your copy is that visitor.

Killer copy is not high and mighty. Great copywriters don't sing from a stage. They sing along as a member of the audience. Put yourself in your audience's shoes and walk a mile before you write your first word. Then you will be able to speak with them, not at them.

The Keys

  • Talk about the destination, not the trip.
  • Speak from the crowd, not the stage.

Be clever, but not that clever

I see an unhealthy amount of imaginative copy that fails to deliver meaning. Copy that is more clever than clear is copy that nobody understands. Copy that is clear but not clever is easy to miss. The goal is to bring both to the table and find the balance between the two as is most appropriate for your scenario.

When Alanis Morissette said, "The caution blocks you from the wind," she didn't make you think that hard. You already knew what she was saying because she was drawing on concepts that are common to the culture she was speaking to, and her message was effective.

When it applies to ads, the aforementioned clever line is a great one, but without the setup and the cultural relevance, it's lost. That's why it needs to be propped up by a really clear message that just says what you want to say. You Live. You Learn.

The Keys

  • Just say what you want to say. Learn to say it well.
  • Understand your culture so they can understand you.

Be hungry like the wolf

Nothing makes copy more powerful than desire, curiosity, hunger and thirst. Maslow said it best. We all need to breathe. We all need to feel safe, accepted, and confident. Excellent copy is the original thirst trap, making these essentials palpable. It'll make you feel like you're worth it, like you have the best a man can get, like you are in the ultimate driving machine. Hungry copy will leave you wondering, where's the beef? It will make you taste the rainbow right there in your chair in front of the television.

Hungry copy makes your mouth water because it uses words – the most select words – that you say when your mouth is watering. To make hungry copy, don't use words that talk about feelings; use words you can feel. These words are the containers for the emotions that you want to invite your audience to experience with you, and phrasing that makes them wonder what comes next.

The Keys

  • Use words you can feel.
  • Leave them wondering what comes next.

Be ready to let go

When you're writing killer copy, write as much as you can. Iterate over and over. But that's not the end. You're not done until you've deleted every last word you can possibly delete, and there is nothing else that can be removed from your copy. Don't add adverbs or describe descriptions. Just use good words.

What's left are the most powerful words that feel like they are piercing through the hearts of your audience.

The Keys

  • Just say it. Be it. Mean it. Feel it.

Want to take it a step further and teach us more about copy?

Come join our team:

Seeking a Killer Copywriter

We're hiring here at Matchbook, and you just might be the one.


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